Dr. Sam Hughes
Senior Lecturer in Pain Neuroscience
RILD Building L3 - 03.08
University of Exeter Medical School, RILD Building, RD&E Hospital Wonford, Barrack Road, Exeter, EX2 5DW, UK
My research is focused on understanding the modulation of experimentally induced and clinical pain states by endogenous analgesic systems in the central nervous system. I use this information to help guide the development of new and mechanism-driven therapies for chronic pain.
I have a BSc in Pharmacology (1st class) from University College London and a PhD in Systems Neuroscience from the University of Bristol. During my PhD, I researched descending noradrenergic control systems during neuropathic pain in the labs of Prof Tony Pickering and Prof Bridget Lumb.
After my PhD, I moved to Imperial College London, where I spent four years using non-invasive brain stimulation techniques in sciatica patients and in human pain models in Dr Paul Strutton’s lab. I then moved to Kings College London to start a research fellowship (Kings Prize/Anthony Mellow Award) investigating the effects of non-invasive deep brain stimulation on the sensitisation of central nociceptive pathways with Dr Matthew Howard.
In 2020 I joined the University of Plymouth as a Lecturer and started the Pain Modulation Lab at the Brain Research and Imaging Centre (BRIC). In 2022, I joined the University of Exeter as a Senior Lecturer in Pain Neuroscience.
Work carried out in my lab involves using neurotechnology (e.g. non-invasive brain stimulation, immersive virtual reality) to harness endogenous analgesic activity in descending pain control systems. We use a number of techniques to measure top-down modulation within central nociceptive pathways (e.g., quantitative sensory testing, neurophysiological assessment of spinal reflexes) in human pain models with a view to develop new, mechanism-driven therapeutics for chronic pain patients.
Through interdisciplinary collaborations across the UK, I have a number of research projects with aim to understand how the brain, brainstem and spinal cord work to modulate experimentally induced and clinical pain states.
- The effects of motor cortex transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on central sensitisation in sciatica patients. Collaborator: Dr Paul Strutton (Imperial College London)
- The effects of immersive virtual reality on cortical manifestations of secondary hyperalgesia. Collaborator: Dr Giorgio Ganis (University of Plymouth).
- Understanding the brain and brainstem mechanisms of secondary hyperalgesia. Collaborator: Dr Matthew Howard (Kings College London).
- Investigating the therapeutic potential of immersive natural environments using virtual reality in chronic low back pain patients. Collaborators: Dr Kayleigh Wyles and Prof Patricia Schofield (University of Plymouth).
- The effects of immersive virtual reality on the development of secondary hyperalgesia: a role for the descending pain modulation system? Collaborator: Dr Matthew Howard (Kings College London).
- The effects of transcranial ultrasound stimulation of the anterior cingulate cortex on experimentally induced secondary hyperalgesia. Collaborator: Dr Elsa Fouragnan (University of Plymouth)
2022 – 2025: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Neurotechnology for Chronic Pain. £1,161,841.47 (Co-Investigator).
2022 – 2024: Academy of Medical Sciences Springboard Award. Virtually painless? Steps towards mechanism-driven use of immersive virtual reality for chronic pain. £98,156.00 (Principle Investigator).
2019 – 2020: The Pain Relief Foundation. The effects of non-invasive brain stimulation on chronic pain and central sensitisation in patients with radicular low-back pain (sciatica): a randomised, sham-controlled proof-of-principle study. £21,207. (Co-investigator).
2022 – 2023: Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research (PIHR). The effects of transcranial ultrasound stimulation of the anterior cingulate cortex in a human model of secondary hyperalgesia: a pilot study. £2,947.60. (Co-investigator).
2020 – 2024: Kings Prize/Anthony Mellow Fellowship. Harnessing brain and brainstem mechanisms of secondary hyperalgesia. £148,601. (Principle Investigator).
sam_hughes Details from cache as at 2023-09-30 08:00:36
External Engagement and Impact
2014: Faculty of Biomedical Sciences Commendation for PhD thesis (University of Bristol)
2018: Nominated for a Student Academic Choice Award for ‘Project Supervision’ (Imperial College London).
2019: Anthony Mellows Medal (Kings College London)
2021: Nominated for ‘Personal Tutor of the Year’ (University of Plymouth).
- Frontiers in Pain Research (Editorial Board)
- European Pain Federation (EFIC)
- Aalborg University (Denmark)
- Kings College London (Wolfson CARD seminar series)
- British Pain Society (BPS)
Daily Telegraph: Immersive Arctic images can slash pain, scientists find.
Interview on BBC radio Cornwall on the use of immersive virtual reality in pain research (2021).
Featured on the British Psychological Society podcast on the topic of ‘how to cope with pain’.
Pain and sensory neuroscience